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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 9 September 2011
This book was written to accompany a television series of the same name and there is an audiobook of it read by Timothy West, all of which I recommend.

Schama at his best needs an audience and he loves performing; I heard him recently (May 2011) giving a lecture on the Festival of Britain and his ability to relate to and communicate with the audience was great to watch. (Like David Starkey live, he is a wonderful users of language and an enthusiast for his subject, both of which draw people into his sphere of learning and interests.)

In writing, his erudition, encyclopaedic knowledge and skilful writing leap of the page of this, the last of three books covering 3000BC to 2000AD; this is 1779-2000. He makes connections others do not make and choices others do not, one of the reasons some people dislike his approach to history. The following chapter headings give a brief insight into his unique approach.

Forces of Nature: The Road to Revolution
Forces of Nature: The Road Home
The Queen and the Hive
Wives, Daughters and Widows
The Empire of Good Intentions: Investments
The Empire of Good Intentions: Dividends

Obviously, not everyone will agree with his choices or his observations but he is a fascinating historian, able to cover this immense period with great skill. (Having Timothy West reading it in the car whiled away many miles with informative, enjoyable listening.)

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on 6 November 2009
I fancy this is a history which is best read by those with previous knowledge. It's an unusual tour through the 225 years. It focuses strongly on some individuals and/or territories/areas - especially Ireland and India - and has no pretensions of being even half-way exhaustive. Despite Scharma being rather too left-wing and anti-capitalist for my taste (his economic "analysis" is often simplistic or plain wrong - employers are always squeezing workers; never, in Scharma's world, do they raise wages in response to market forces/scarcities!), mean would be the reader who could not appreciate his sheer skill in writing. I found particularly compelling his description of competing British visions of how to deal with India in the nineteenth century and his interpretation of how doomed was the Raj by the end of that century. By then, there springs into the history, with his combination of daring-do and voracious reading and writing, Winston Churchill. He, of course, stubbornly clung to the Empire and several other lost causes, before his sudden elevation at a worse-than-desperate hour for his country. This elevation is preceded by a particularly fine overlapping and interweaving of the lives of Winston Churchill and George Orwell in the later chapters of the book. Can any history have described so well in so few pages the 1930s in Britain?
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on 22 January 2013
This isn't even a history book as far as I am concerned. It is mostly just random series of essays about different aspects (seems to be a lot about Victorian authors/artists, etc) of British history within timeframe of 1776-2000,, not really much of any serious discussion of the Industrial Revolution that began in Britain and spread shortly around the world. I had liked hist Volume 2 on the English Civil Wars and Revolution enough to try Volume 3..but Volume 3 seems to be the result of the author ,not having time to write Volume 3 so he just wrote a "fun essay" volume or his team of history scholars/writers who helped him with previous editions quit and left him to write this all on his own..and he instead wrote a book of "fun essays volume" instead.. (actually he even mentions , to my surprise, at the beginning of the book how this volume was going to be different than previous volumes..and not a chronological , detailed history, but a book of essays..this is mistitling a volume of a product and to me, a rip off).

Big question for me...is where did the 5 star reviews come from...but I suspect they must be friends of the author ..as this is so obviously a bad non-history of Britain..that can be my only conclusion.
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on 8 August 2010
Timothy West brings this highly erudite and entertaining history of Britain to life, don't even think of getting any other version! (I listened to this read by someone else and was totally disappointed at how flat it sounded. If you like the audio book the I recommend getting the DVD set with Simon Schama as narrator. He comes over as both likeable and highly intelligent and the series is fascinating and a refreshing change to most. To my taste, the audio book is better as it contains so much more detail, but it is delightful to have the video set as well. I would also recommend Terry Jones' highly entertaining offerings on Medieval history.
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on 11 October 2007
Although this is the most subjective of the 3 volumes (because it brings us right up to the present day) I found it as absorbing as volumes 1 and 2. You may or may not agree with some of Schama's interpretations, but there's no denying he knows extremely well how to focus on the the driving forces and key events amongst a myriad of facts. This is history 'simplified' indeed, in the most positive sense of the word: understandable, entertaining, and engaging.

Thanks to these books I was eager to learn more about a host of periods, people and events so thank you Simon!
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on 13 July 2011
We could do worse than to distribute this book and the previous to every person in Britain and get them to read it before ever being allowed to express a view about their country. However, i imagine the author would be against that in principle - we are lucky that the producers at the BBC decided on Simon Schama and not the awful Carlyle-esque Starkey to publish and present this history.

Thank you to Schama for giving us a book that you can delve in to at any time and enjoy.
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on 5 June 2014
Ok here is the sad thing about education in the USA. They don't teach a whole lot of history today. I mean I went to grade school some 15 years ago and we learned about history, but not the extent I would of appreciated. So between Simon Schama, John Lukacs, and Black Adder I think I've learned about a lot of British history I didn't know before.
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on 16 December 2008
Schama presents Britain's history through a series of portraits - Wordsworth, Churchill, Orwell - like a stroll through the gallery of a stately home.

He calls Britain 'the nation that had been born from imperial wars and sustained by imperial profits', as if the British people had not created Britain in their own land by their own efforts. This explains why he spends so much time on the empire, run by just tens of thousands of expatriates, and so little on the industrial civilisation built by tens of millions that made Britain the workshop of the world.

Yet his chapters on the Empire are useful. He quotes Charles Trevelyan of the treasury, who said that the Irish famine of 1845-49 was "the judgement of God on an indolent and unself-reliant people, and as God had sent the calamity to teach the Irish a lesson, that calamity must not be too much mitigated."

But the ruling class learnt nothing from this. In 1860 two million Indian people died of famine, in 1866, 800,000, in 1877-8, seven million. "the Government decline to import rice ... If the market favours, imported rice will find its way into Pooree without government interference which can only do harm." The Lancet wrote that India's excess deaths from famine and disease were more than 19 million in the 1890s. Between 1901 and 1905, three million people died of bubonic plague and another three million died of cholera. The British-run Indian government spent just 4% of its revenues on public works like irrigation, and 35% on the army and police.

Schama notes that the empire was built on selling drugs. In 1851, 40% of India's exports were opium. As late as 1900-10, opium profits yielded a sixth of the Indian government's revenues.

However, Schama's comments on foreign affairs in the last century are obtuse. He writes that Churchill was 'prophetic or optimistic' on Ireland, the Middle East and the blockade of Germany - it would be nice to know which. He thinks that Churchill's 'diagnosis of what had happened in Russia in October 1917 was exactly right'. Schama repeats the old slur that Spain's communists were 'more interested in hunting down heretics like the anarchists than in taking on General Franco's fascists'. He calls the USA's 1953 coup against Iran a 'defensive' response to Iran's nationalisation of its oil industry.

But he makes a few shrewd comments, writing, "immigrant labour was exploited to drive down wages." He notes that the Conservative politician Harold Macmillan in 1938 proposed abolishing the Stock Exchange. And he concludes, "what post-imperial Britain has going for it is precisely its resistance to the chilly white purism of Euro-nationalism."
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on 12 March 2016
I bought this book for my dad who loves anything about history and he said it was a fantastic book. I believe this was the third in a series and he has all the other books which go before this one and he said they are a fantastic series of books and would highly recommend them.
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on 8 January 2016
What can I say about this series of books - well-researched and well-written. The perfect companion to the classic BBC series, or a standalone history of the British islands and people.

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